Old maps of Australia
Old maps are fascinating. They show how the world's knowledge about Australia developed over time, from early Dutch explorers who were looking for a way to the "Spice Islands" to the English navigators who embarked on epic voyages to chart the southern continent.
The first people to visit Australia were, of course, the indigenous inhabitants who crossed the seas and the land bridges that were revealed by the last major ice age. The map of Australia looked very different back then, with much more dry land than there is now. People were able to walk from the mainland to Tasmania. Ironically, the early European maps still showed the two landmasses joined together. Only later did navigators such as Bass (after whom the Bass Strait is named) prove they were separate islands.
Ancient maps: Terra Australis
This world map (also called a "planisphere" because it is not flat rectangular map) was made in 1587 by Rumold Mercator. Rumold was the son of famous Flemish mapmaker Gerardus, who invented the now famous "Mercator projection" method of mapping the world on a flat rectangle. Like most ancient maps, this one was based on a compilation of information from a number of sources, and the mapmaker did not visit any of the far shores depicted.
You will notice the name "Terra Australis" given to the landmass at the bottom of the map. This means simply "southern land". It appears to be made up of guesswork and actual sightings of land, with Australia, Antarctica and New Zealand all thought to be part of the one gigantic continent. Some parts of Australia are accurate, such as where northern Western Australia and north Queensland are shown to the south of Java and New Guinea (outlined in green on the right and left sides of the map respectively). An overscale Gulf of Carpentaria is shown between the two northern reaches of Australia.